February for female saints

February 7, 2024 in Featured News, News

As the celebrations for Saint Brigid’s day come to a close, some people in Ireland are preparing to honor one of Ireland’s lesser known female saints.

Saint Gobnait, also known as Saint Abigail or Saint Deborah, is held in high regard by those who know her. In Irish folklore and Christian tradition she is known for her affiliation with bees and is considered the patron saint of bees and beekeepers. Her feast day is celebrated on February 11.

Saint Gobnait was born in County Clare, Ireland, in the sixth century. A medieval church still stands today on Inisheer, County Galway, to mark her birthplace. It is said she fled her home due to a family feud. An angel appeared and told her to continue heading inland to find the place of her resurrection and that the place would be marked by nine white deer. When she reached Ballyvourney in County Cork, she found the white deer. She set up a convent there and dedicated herself to helping the local community.

Saint Gobnait was known for her healing abilities and love for animals. She is said to have cured the sick and protected the people from plague and illness. The bees she treasured were believed to be under her protection, and it was said that anyone who harmed them would suffer her wrath. In Celtic lore it is believed that the soul leaves the body as a bee or butterfly.

The local community in Ballyvourney continues to honour her by preserving her story and paying tribute to her as the patron saint of bees each year on February 11.

Photo: Design for “St. Gobnait” window in Honan Chapel, Cork City. From Collection of the Rakow Library, The Corning Museum of Glass, New York, via Wikimedia Commons.